Friday, September 22, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Triumph of spirit: unconvincing viewpoint

DR JASBIR SINGH AHLUWALIA'S latest foray into mataphysics, “Triumph of spirit over reason” (Of Life Sublime, The Tribune, September 14), attracted my attention for its obvious promise of solving the mysteries of life. Having notched the Biblical span of three score and ten — five years ago — I tend to clutch at any straw to improve my hereafter.

My friend, professionally a civil servant, has earned the sobriquet of an “eminent Sikh scholar” from the media. He is understood to have become the life-time Chairman of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, Chandigarh, and has now reached the acme of his career by achieving his life-long ambition of being appointed Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala.

Having gate-crashed into a captive audiences at Guru Gobind Singh Bhawan, Chandigarh, I became conversant with Dr Ahluwalia’s pet theme of getting the tercentenary of the Khalsa declared as the “Year of the Spirit” by the United Nations. Evidently, he could not succeed in this endeavour but appeared not to have given up his basic idea which he now wants to propagate from a different platform, side-stepping religious dogma. His attempt is to take a much wider sweep. Let us see whether his prognosis of the future of global civilisation in the third millennium is valid.


I must confess that it was not an easy task to read through to the end of the piece because of the writer’s abstruse style of writing. However, I set upon the task with a stoical application of the mind which helped me somewhat to sensitise my jaded sensibilities and go through it not only once but twice. Unfortunately, my mind remained as vacuous at the end of the second reading as the first.

My friend deals in some depth only with the modern and post-modern Western civilisation but says nothing at all about the great Eastern philosophy. He refers to Kant, Hegel, Marx, Jean Francois Lyotard and W. Heisenberg. He is dismissive of most of the foundational postulates of Kant, Hegel and Marx who were great philosophers and political thinkers of their times. They have made quite valid observations and propounded theories in the context of available data.

He quotes Jean Francois Lyotard and W. Heisenberg to support his analysis of the post-modern scenario. I must admit that I am hearing the names of the last two for the first time. My ignorance, however, does not detract me from trying to understand what Dr Ahluwalia is attempting to theories. He dispenses with the “Triumph of the Spirit” quite casually in one paragraph, confining the essence, namely “the wondrous Divine spectacle”, in two sentences. I would like to quote, “Twinkling of a star, refreshing rays of the rising sun; the first cry of a new-born babe; fragrance of a flower; the amorous touch of virgin love; the frenzied glow on the face of a revolutionary going to the gallows; the wondrous Divine spectacle; these are instances — instantiations —of the spirit. The spirit is an outflowing current, an outpouring of energy, a gushing stream which does not traverse a pre-chartered course within pre-determined bounds.” Surprisingly enough, this promising premise is followed by an unconvincing and simplistic viewpoint.

In a language that reads like science-fiction, the visionary writer prognosticates, “the spirit realises itself not in ‘things’ but in processes and patterns, in relations and linkages, making up organism-like wholes within wholes, systems within systems, constituting, as such, a network of interconnections from the terrestrial to the transcendental.” Quite simple, everything falls into place like an unwinding Japanese clock. Sorry, sir, this airy dialectic dissertation passes your readers’ comprehension as to how the Divine spectacle, as described by the writer, constitutes the notion of spirit which would be the foundational principle of a global civilisation of the third millennium.


Legislators’ loot

If the sailor’s slogan is, “Join the navy and see the world”, our Indian legislator’s maxim is, “Get elected and you are made for life”. No country in the world, including the richest like the USA, gives its legislators even one-tenth of the kind of emoluments and perquisites which poor country like ours does. Only a sample of this is mentioned below.

Apart from the salary, he gets constituency, office and travelling allowances, including free rail and air travel for himself and his spouse. He gets a house, medical facilities, a foreign exchange quota and diplomatic passport. He is allowed three telephones with 50,000 free calls per year from each.

The final straw is that any legislator who has been a member of any House for a year is entitled to pension for life which increases every year, with rail passes on a life-time basis. We have 545 MPs of the Lok Sabha, 250 of the Rajya Sabha and 4500 MLAs who enjoy this wealth.

In sharp contrast to the situation in the USA except for the President, no other legislator is allotted government accommodation. They are not given any office staff and have to pay from their pocket for their telephones, stationery and even their PAs. They don’t get free air or rail passes at all, except when on official duty. The day they quit office, there is no pension or any other benefit after that.

We should not grudge our honest and hardworking legislators their present emoluments and perks, as a “rich” country like ours can easily afford this. It is only a “poor” country like the USA which cannot.

Brig N. B. GRANT (retd)


For peace & disarmament

With the millennium summit at the UN ending on sundry promises and commitments, the world stands at the crossroads. Though modern man has attained incredible material heights, he is still at the sea as far as the real purpose of life is concerned.

We are on the verge of a “nuclear nemesis”. It is high time we took stock of the sizzling situation with our “collective consciousness”.

Disarmament is no hocus-pocus it requires earnest endeavours from all and sundry. We must shun the weapons of mass destruction in order to continue the race of “humanity”. It is time to make “choices” and not to take “chances”. Let us put together our heads and hearts to make this world a better and safer place to live in because “peace” is the only way to “survive” as well as to “thrive” in this millennium.



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